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I understand that impulse not to look like a tourist—I feel it too. But I try to get over it; it’s mostly given me grief for nothing but pride.
That said, the idea of wiring your backpack to act as your power strip is hotness, and I might do so. I need to strip and rewire some of mine already, so I may as well make it a proper hackpack.
I’ve made some progress since last week, which is probably a good thing given the amount of time I’ve spent doing research and making various plans. It’s a bit like an optimization problem in operations research, where the goal of minimizing cost and maximizing efficiency bumps up against unknown constraints like unpredictable airfare changes. I figured it’d be useful to document some of the approaches I’ve taken so far.
1) I moved all my trip planning to Kayak
I had been using Google Docs as a way to centralize my trip planning, but for the purposes of airfare, it made a lot more sense to put it all on Kayak, since that was the main place I was going for in order to search and book flights. I had checked Hipmunk as well, but their flight rates were never quite as good as Kayak’s. By having my trip planned on Kayak, I have a one-click solution to checking fares for a particular segment before committing to buy.
The route as it stands. It’s very much a hub-and-spoke trip.
2) I put in several overland connections
Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I looked up multicity fares through Vietnam and India, so that I would fly into one city and out another back to a single airport. It turns out that the fares end up being equal or at times cheaper (my Bangkok-Mumbai, Kochi-Bangkok fare is slightly cheaper, owing to the fact that a Bangkok-Kochi flight would go through Mumbai anyways). In that sense, paying attention to connection cities is helpful to determine if you can actually spend some time at that city instead of simply the airport.
3) I realized some flight combinations aren’t just worth the savings
It befuddles me at times wondering how certain airlines can manage to be profitable providing rather incredulous flight plans between destinations. The screenshot below shows a connection between Hong Kong and Auckland through Incheon, making what otherwise would be a 5680 mile trip into 7280 miles and tacking between 10 and 20 hours extra to a traveler’s trip. For an extra $100 more, I can save myself that headache.
4) I purchased a GPS logger
I debated getting the Spot 2 Satellite GPS tracker, which costs $100 or so and requires a combined $99 + $49 subscription service, which would give me the opportunity to update a webpage with my coordinates every 10 minutes or so without my needing to do anything. It didn’t have particularly good reviews and the additional cost didn’t seem particularly worth it, so I opted instead for a BadElf 2200, which can track GPS waypoints for up to 35 hours and had seemingly better reviews. (It also broadcasts location through Bluetooth so that iDevices can connect – I’m not sure how Bluetooth and GPS battery drainage compare, but I guess it’s an advantage to use Bluetooth). Interestingly, both Amazon Japan and Rakuten only seemed to have odd cheap-looking GPS trackers, so I ended up having to ship internationally through eBay US.
I have no freaking clue where I’m going so I’m just gonna whip out my iPad while I’m on a walk (courtesy Bad Elf)
5) I figured out timing and visa
As a Japanese national, I get relative freedom traveling through Asia compared to my American counterparts (for example, Americans need a visa to get into Vietnam, but Japanese passport-holders do not). The issue with flying these roundtrip tickets as I do is that for each of the countries I visit, I am still somewhat considered to be in the country if I travel outside of the country within that time. Lastly, since these nested roundtrip tickets are all considered independent journeys, no airline is going to take responsibility for missed connections, so I’ve given myself (hopefully) ample time between important ones. I have 2 days to spare in Hong Kong before my long (and long-awaited) trip to Auckland, for example.
5) I’m still working out power management
I despise looking like a tourist while traveling, with all sorts of flashy gadgets and the like, and a minimalist approach to my travel will mean just a small Eagle Creek ES Cargo duffle bag as my companion. That being said, I will be carrying a camera and likely my iPad, and the GPS tracker is going to need occasional juice as well. I have a couple of lightweight battery supplies, but I’m not quite sure what the right combination is. I’m figuring hardwiring an extendable single power plug from my bag to a central hub inside the bag, so that I can potentially plug it into an outlet where I find one without making it look obvious. Any thoughts on that front?